India’s ‘dosa king’ begins life in jail over murder of young woman’s husband

P. Rajagopal, who founded the popular Indian restaurant chain Saravana Bhavan in 1981, was convicted of orchestrating the abduction and murder of his love interest’s husband.

The case dates back to 2001, when according to court documents, Rajagopal had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the married 21-year-old daughter of an employee to become his third wife. Rajagopal lavished the woman with expensive gifts and told her false stories about her husband, including that he had HIV.

In September 2001, the couple decided to move house to get away from the restaurant mogul. Before they could leave, the couple was abducted and attacked by Rajagopal and a group of others.

The couple survived, but later that year the restaurateur hired a hit man to kill the husband, whose body was found in a forest in Tamil Nadu, the court heard. He is believed to have been strangled to death.

Prolonged bail

Rajagopal was sentenced to 10 years in jail for the murder in 2004.

But despite the violent nature of the crime, a protracted appeals process has seen restaurant mogul avoid serving his sentence until this week. In that time, his dosa chain hasn’t suffered and now has 80 locations worldwide.

In 2009, Rajagopal unsuccessfully appealed his conviction, only to have his punishment extended to a life sentence.

The restaurateur, however, continued to appeal his conviction through the Indian courts and was released on bail multiple times. His life sentence was confirmed in March this year by the Supreme Court, leaving him no further avenue for legal dispute.

On Tuesday, the disgraced dosa king turned himself in at the Madras High Court.

“We filed it (the last appeal) last week and the Supreme Court rejected it on Monday. He surrendered yesterday to the local trial court in Chennai,” said Aishwarya Bhati, the lawyer representing Rajagopal.

Bhati added that her client is in poor health. He will only be released from prison if authorities find his condition is deteriorating, in which case he will be moved to a hospital for medical attention.

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